By Hedwig Kröner in Mâcon
The whole of France was in a frenzy. On Wednesday, July 12, a French cyclist rode himself into the overall lead of the Tour de France, and even if he could only wear the Yellow jersey for one day, AG2R's Cyril Dessel has been closely followed by the public ever since. One day prior to the all-deciding time trial in Le Creusot, the brave fighter was still placed seventh on GC. Cyclingnews asked him how he felt about his performance.
"This Tour is like a dream to me," said Dessel in Morzine, before the start of stage 18. "My popularity is growing impressively; and I hear my name shouted out everywhere. It's really great."
Before the last mountain stage, Dessel was still placed fourth on the overall classification - but then he had to concede some spots to his rivals, finishing 16th on the stage after four high mountains climbs. His teammate Christophe Moreau, who had protected him on the day before, got third. How did he feel about the fact that Moreau didn't stay with him on that last ascent, the Col de Joux-Plane?
"Christophe was the leader of our team when we started this Tour," he replied. "When I got the placing on GC, I was protected as well. Yesterday (stage 17), he had the legs to play his card and try to get up on GC, so he did. I just tried to hold on as much as I could - and in the end, I didn't miss much to stay with the groupe maillot jaune. It was a pity that I crashed in the descent. I would have ended up sixth on GC had I not..."
Now, the young Frenchman will aim at keeping his spot on the list of honour, even if he knows it will be hard. "The time trial is a question mark for me," Dessel continued. "I don't know what I'm capable of. After three weeks, it's endurance that counts, and I'm more a climber than a rouleur, too. So I'll try to limit my losses; maybe keep this seventh place or at least finish in the Top 10."
Whatever happens, Dessel will forever treasure the memory of the 2006 Tour de France. "If anyone had told me before the Tour that I would finish it like this, I would have never believed it! This was completely unexpected for me."